Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Rosé dinner like no other

Laurent Perrier Rosé Shines in a Dinner in the Kitchen at Charlie Trotter's

Text ©Tom Hyland

How many foods can you think of to pair with a Rosé Champagne? The answer depends on your imagination and if the wine is to be served at one of the country’s greatest restaurants, there might be no end to dishes that work with this wine.

Last week, I was invited by the Champagne firm of Laurent Perrier to meet their president, Bertrand de Fleurian, for dinner at Charlie Trotter’s Restaurant in Chicago. The purpose was not only for us to learn more about each other, but also to enjoy a dinner in which each course was specially created to accompany the firm’s Cuvée Rosé Brut. Aurélie Baetche, local manager for Laurent Perrier, was co-host and she also invited a local journalist from the Chicago Sun-Times.

Now I love Rosé Champagne and if they had hosted this at a hot dog stand, I would have attended! But of course, they went first-class and celebrated this event at Charlie Trotter’s. Meeting de Fleurian at Charlie Trotter’s for dinner is my kind of great evening, but what made this even more special was the fact that they reserved the kitchen table for us. There is one table of four in this kitchen and it’s quite an experience to see up close how a great restaurant staff works as a team. No orderly chaos here; this is a group whose work has been carefully choreographed and comes off as gracefully as a ballet troupe.

We began dinner at 6:00 and three hours and fifteen courses later (yes, 15!), dinner was complete. First things first, the Rosé is excellent with delicious strawberry and currant fruit, lively acidity, lovely complexity and beautiful freshness and balance. When you have a 100% Pinot Noir Champagne made this well with this depth of fruit, it’s only natural that you can pair so many types of food with the wine.

But while most of us could think of four to five dishes to accompany a Rosé Champagne, great chefs come up with so many more inspired ideas. Executve chef Matthias Merges presented a dazzling array of foods, from the opening course of Kumomoto Oyster with Miso and Lime to the final touch of Olive Oil-Chocolate Chip Parfait with Fraise des Bois. Now there’s something you don’t have every night!

Lemon Verbana Spoon Bread with Honey & Chervil
(Photo by Tom Hyland)

A few of my favorites along the way included Confit of Tasmanian Trout with Rose & Black Tea, Lemon Verbena Spoon Bread with Honey & Chervil as well as Ricotta with Vidalia Onion Marmalade and Arugula. If I had to pick one course that I thought was a perfect match with the Champagne, it would be the Japanese Fresh Water Eel with Orange and Grains of Paradise. I’m not normally too big on eel, but this was quite meaty, without the oiliness I so often associate with eel. This was my favorite, but let it be said, that there were another nine or ten courses that worked equally well. Best of all, each of the 15 courses was so beautifully prepared with such specific flavors, yet all were so light on the palate.

Swan Creek Farm Ricotta with Vidalia Onion Marmalade & Arugula
(Photo by Tom Hyland)

I don't think I’ll ever have a meal like this again, so thanks to Aurélie and Bertrand for the invitation as well as their company and thanks to Chef Merges and his brilliant team at Charlie Trotter’s for their incredibly inspired work. The moral of the story is simple; Rosé Champagne – especially the Laurent Perrier Cuvée Rosé Brut – is a perfect match for almost any food. I doubt many of you will have Tempura of Sardine with Peach Consommé & Spanish Chorizo or Cold-Poached Cod Cheeks with Heirloom Tomato Relish with the wine when you open your bottle, but try it with duck breast, tuna or even with a simple roasted chicken breast – you’ll love it!

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